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What makes Game of Thrones the most watched series in the world?
Probably the great quality of its scenario.
Hundreds of thrilling plots.
A vast, complex narrative architecture.
Hundreds of realistic, colorful, contrasted characters.
Here is the complete scenario analysis of the 20 first episodes of the queen of the series.
The actantial roles of the characters
It is difficult to count the actantial roles, since it is difficult to count the plots. We can still try to count them within the around 40 major plots we previously identified.
King’s Landing and the Lannisters
Stark Hand of the King
- Stark lord of Winterfell and old friend of the King
Hero: Stark. Goal: to name Stark Hand of the King. Mentor: King Robert.
- Stark Hand of the King
Hero: Stark. Goal: to obey the King, to be a worthy Hand of the King.
Antagonists: the Council (Varys, Littlefinger, Aemon), Queen Cersei, and King Robert.
- Stark investigates on the bastards of Robert and the murder of Jon Arryn
Hero: Stark. Goal: to discover the truth about Robert’s bastards, Joffrey’s real parents and Jon Arryn’s murder.
Helper: Pycelle, Littlefinger.
Antagonists: Cersei and some members of the Council.
Joffrey, son of incest Jaime / Cersei – Bran mute, Stark investigator
- Bran witness of the incest Jaime/Cersei
Hero: Bran. Goal: to climb, then to shut up. Antagonist: Jaime. Helper of the Antagonist: Cersei. Their goal: to kill, to make Bran shut up.
- Tyrion in mission in the North
Hero: Tyrion. Goal: to accomplish a mission towards Mormont. Antagonist: Catelyn.
- Tyrion prisoner
Hero: Tyrion. Goal: to break free. Helper: Bronn. Antagonist: Catelyn and Lysa Arryn.
- Tyrion finds partners
Hero: Tyrion. Goal: to have a team to be able to be a good Hand of the King. Helpers: Bronn, Shagga, Shae.
Tyrion Hand of the King
- Tyrion politician and libertine Regent
Hero: Tyrion. Goal: to be a good Hand of the King. Mentor: Tywin.
Helpers: Bronn and Shae. Antagonists: Cersei, Joffrey, the Council.
- Tyrion strategist and warlord
Hero: Tyrion. Goal: to defend King’s Landing. Mentor: the expert of Greek fire. Antagonist: Stannis and his fleet.
The family Stark
- Bran bad at shooting arrows but excellent climber.
Hero: Bran. Goal: to climb. Skeptical: Catelyn. Antagonist: Jaime and Cersei.
- Bran in a coma
Hero: Bran. Goal: to survive. Helpers: his family members who watch him. Antagonist: the fact that Bran be in a coma.
- Bran convalescent
Hero: Bran. Helpers: his family. Goal: to tell the truth? Antagonists: Jaime and Cersei.
- Bran under threat then on the run
Hero: Bran. Goal: to resist Theon. Helpers: Osha, Hodor, Luwin. Antagonist: Theon.
- Sansa promised to Joffrey and in love
Hero: Sansa. Goal: to love and marry Joffrey. Helpers: Joffrey, Cersei, Eddard and Catelyn. Antagonist: none.
- Joffrey and Arya argue
Hero: Arya. Goal: to resist Joffrey. Helper: her wolf. Hero’s Mentor: Stark. Antagonist: Joffrey. Goal of the Antagonist: to punish Arya and have her wolf killed. Mentor of the Antagonist: Cersei.
- Joffrey and Sansa reconcile
Hero: Joffrey. Goal: to seek reconciliation with Sansa. Briefly Antagonist then Helper: Sansa.
- Sansa bullied by Joffrey
Hero: Sansa. Goal: to resist. Antagonist: Joffrey. Goal of the Antagonist: to bully Sansa.
- Sansa hostage
Hero: Sansa. Goal: to save her life. Helpers: Tyrion, the Hound. Antagonists: Joffrey and Cersei.
- The wild kid
Hero: Arya. Goal: to bother her brother and sister. Antagonists: Bran, Sansa. Helpers of the Antagonists: Catelyn and Robb.
- The rebel to prince Joffrey
Already counted under another angle.
- Arya at King’s Landing’s court
Hero: Arya. Mentors: Jon Snow and Stark (who gave or let her use a sword). Mentor and Helper: Syrio Forel. Antagonists: the Lannisters.
Arya on the run
Hero: Arya. Goal: to escape the Lannisters. Mentor: an anonymous man. Antagonists: the Lannisters.
- Arya at the service of Tywin Lannister, helped by Jaqen H’ghar
Hero: Arya. Goal: not to be discovered by Tywin. Antagonist and Mentor: Tywin.
Hero: Jaqen H’ghar. Goal: to eliminate 3 persons on Arya’s command. Mentor: Arya. Antagonists: the persons named by Arya.
- Robb good son
Hero: Robb. Goal: to be a good family leader in the absence of his father. Antagonists: far away, the Lannisters, and close, the wildlings, including Osha.
- Robb warlord
Hero: Robb. Goal: to fight his enemies. Helpers: his army, his loyal lords including Theon. Antagonists: the Lannisters, Walder Frey.
- Robb in love
Hero: Robb. Goal: to marry Talisa. Antagonist or skeptical: Catelyn who opposes it.
- Catelyn in family
Hero: Catelyn. Goal: to be a good mother.
Catelyn welcomes the King
Hero: Catelyn. Goal: to face the situation and welcome the King and Queen.
- Catelyn watches Winterfell over
Hero: Catelyn. Helpers: Robb, Luwin. Goal: to watch over them and Winterfell.
- Catelyn against the Lannisters
Hero: Catelyn. Goal: to warn Stark that the Lannisters have tried to kill Bran. Antagonists: the Lannisters.
Hero: Catelyn. Goal: to capture Tyrion. Helpers: some knights at her commands. Antagonist: Tyrion. Helper of the Antagonist: Bronn.
Hero: Catelyn. Goal: to keep Tyrion prisoner to exchange him against the Stark daughters. Antagonist: Lysa Arryn. Goal of the Antagonist: to kill Tyrion.
Hero: Catelyn. Goal: to make Jaime prisoner. Helper: Brienne. Antagonist: Jaime.
- The serf
Hero: Theon. Goal: to obey the Starks, to be part of their clan. Antagonists: the Starks, mostly Robb (who refuses Theon’s integration).
- The traitor
Hero: Theon. Goal: to take Winterfell. Helpers: a few of his men. Skepticals: some of his men, his family. Antagonists: Bran, Rodrick, and one of his own soldiers who kills him.
The pretenders Baratheon
- The illegitimate assassinated pretender
Hero: Renly. Goal: to be King. Helpers: his army. Antagonists: the Lannisters, and Stannis. Mentor of the Antagonist Stannis: Melisandre.
- The lover
Hero: Renly. Goal: to make love with the Knight of the Flowers and not with Margery. Helper: Margery (who lets him free). Antagonist: the Knight of the Flowers (who asks him to sleep with Margery to be a good husband).
- The legitimate pretender
Hero: Stannis. Goal: to be King. Antagonists: the Lannisters, and Renly.
- The satanic pretender
Hero: Stannis. Goal: to take the power by all necessary means. Mentor and Helper: Melisandre. Helpers: his army, and Davos. Antagonist: the Lannisters, Renly.
- The warlord and the loser
Hero: Stannis. Goal: to conquer King’s Landing. Helpers: his fleet, and Davos. Antagonists: the royal army, the Lannisters, Tyrion.
The North, the Wall and the Night’s Watch
- Massacred wildlings and massacred Night’s Watch
Hero: the scout. Goal: to warn about a massacre he witnessed, and to save his life. Antagonists: his superior who does not believe him, the ressurected corpses of the wildlings, the mysterious killers, the Night’s Watch who capture him and Stark who execute him.
- Jon engages in the Night’s Watch
Hero: Jon. Goal: to enlist in the Night’s Watch. Helpers: Mormont, Samwell.
Antagonists: the dangers of the North, the white walkers, Allister, the companions of the Watch, Ygritte and the wildlings.
The white walkers and the supernatural phenomenons come back
Hero: giant wolves, killers of wildlings, white walkers. Goal: to kill, to invade Westeros. Antagonists: the Night’s Watch, Westeros.
Daenerys at Pentos
- Viserys marries Daenerys to Drogo, hoping that Drogo’s army will conquer the Iron Throne for him
Hero: Daenerys. Mentor: Viserys. Goal: to marry Drogo and to use his army to the benefit of Viserys. Skeptical: Daenerys. Antagonist: none.
Hero: Viserys. Goal: to use his sister to reconquer his throne with Drogo’s army. Skepticals: Daenerys and Jorah. Antagonist: Drogo.
Daenerys reeducates Drogo sexuallly
Hero: Daenerys. Mentor: his servant. Goal: to have a better sex life with Drogo. Antagonist: Drogo’s sexual brutality.
- Daenerys fails at curing Drogo who dies, and she delivers a monster, but she wins 3 baby dragons
Hero: Daenerys. Goal: to save Drogo from dying. Helper: the witch.
Skeptical: the dothraki warrior who wants to kill Daenerys and the witch too. Antagonists: the wound of Drogo, the dishonest witch.
- Daenerys travels and crosses through a desert
Hero: Daenerys. Goal: to go to Westeros and claim the throne. Helpers: Jorah and the dothraki people. Antagonist: the fact they are lost in the desert.
Hero: Daenerys. Goal: to find asylum, then get her stolen dragons back.
Helpers: Xaro, Jorah. Antagonists: the city councilman who blocks them at the gate, Pyat Pree, Xaro.
Counting of the actantial roles
We thus counted for those 40 major plots:
- A total of around 174 actantial roles – which makes a bit more of 4 characters involved in each plot in average and playing an effective actantial role in it.
- A total of 67 characters taking at least one actantial role along the 2 first seasons, so that each actantial character holds 3 roles in average.
And just remember that we counted only the major plots, leaving aside many mini-plots which probably would double our numbers.
67 actantial characters and 174 actantial roles, these are huge numbers: managing such a quantity of information and animate so many lives is reserved to the great professionals of scriptwriting.
There is much to learn from a study of these actantial roles.
It clearly appears that a fistful of key-characters cumulate most of the roles.
Let us recap, by decreasing order:
- Catelyn 14 roles
- Ed Stark 8 roles
- The Lannisters 7 roles
- Cersei 7 roles
- Tyrion 7 roles
- Joffrey 7 roles
- Robb 7 roles
- Stannis 5 roles
- Arya 5 roles
- Sansa 5 roles
- Jaime 4 roles
- Bran 4 roles
- Robert 3 roles
- Renly 4 roles
- Daenerys 3 roles
In total, these 14 characters (less than one quarter of the total) cumulate 83 roles (that is, half of the total).
This analysis highlights a reality that we can perceive while watching the series: the dramatic core of Game of Thrones tells the conflict between the Houses Stark (6 major characters) and Lannister (5 major characters: Cersei, Jaime, Tyrion, Joffrey and the Lannisters as collective character).
Indeed, the other Houses have few representatives in these first plan characters: the Baratheons have 3 characters (Robert, Renly, Stannis) but 2 of them quickly perish and the third one is defeated. The Targaryen only have Viserys and Daenerys at the other side of Westeros. The Greyjoy only have Theon.
Did you enjoy Game of Thrones? Do you want to know how it was written? Then read our full analysis of Game of Thrones seasons 1 & 2 and improve your scriptwriting skills!
PDF, 143 pages